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Covid-19 herd immunity may be impractical strategy to fight the pandemic: Study

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Achieving herd immunity to Covid-19 is an impractical public health strategy, say researchers, adding that, immunity is not perfect and achieving it through widespread exposure is very unlikely. 

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the suppression and mitigation approaches for controlling the spread of SARSCoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

 “The herd immunity concept is tantalising because it spells the end of the threat of Covid-19,” said study lead author Toby Brett from University of Georgia in the US. “However, because this approach aims to avoid disease elimination, it would need a constant adjustment of lockdown measures to ensure enough people are being infected at a particular point in time,” Brett added. 

The research team sought to determine if and how countries could achieve herd immunity without overburdening the health care system. They developed an age-stratified disease transmission model to simulate SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the UK, with spread controlled by the self-isolation of symptomatic individuals and various levels of social distancing. 

Their simulations found that in the absence of any control measures, the UK would experience as many as 4,10,000 deaths related to Covid-19, with 3,50,000 of those being from individuals aged 60-plus. They found that using the suppression strategy, far fewer fatalities were predicted: 62,000 among individuals aged 60-plus and 43,000 among individuals under 60. If self isolation engagement is high (defined as at least 70 per cent reduction in transmission), suppression can be achieved in two months regardless of social distancing measures, and potentially sooner should school, work and social gathering places close.

 To instead achieve herd immunity given currently available hospital resources, the UK would need to adjust levels of social distancing in real time to ensure that the number of sick individuals is equal to, but not beyond, hospital capacity.

 “If the virus spreads too quickly, hospitals will be overwhelmed, but if it spreads too slowly, the epidemic will be suppressed without achieving herd immunity,” the team wrote. 

They further noted that much is unknown about the nature, duration and effectiveness of Covid-19 immunity, and that their model assumes perfect long-lasting immunity. 

The team cautioned that if immunity is not perfect, and there is a significant chance of reinfection, achieving herd immunity through widespread exposure is very unlikely. “We recognise there remains much for us to learn about Covid-19 transmission and immunity,” said study authors.

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COVID-19 DAMAGED CRICKET BUT THANK GOD FOR IPL: DAVE CAMERON

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX, the former president of the West Indies Cricket Board shares his insights about cricket, his journey, and what the sport endured during this pandemic.

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Former president of the West Indies Cricket Board, Dave Cameron, assessed the effects of the global lockdown on cricket and said that the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) is a huge plus for cricket after six months of the pandemic.

About the damage, he said, “It’s been tremendous and enormous but, interestingly, cricket has weathered better than some other sports. England was able to play the National series, New Zealand will too shortly, but West Indies haven’t started any since the start of the pandemic, so that is damaging their finances and I suspect the same for South Africa and some of the smaller countries.” He continued, “Cricket has been damaged quite a bit but, thank God for the IPL. We are watching some excellent cricket, and I think it’s excellent because you have the best players in the world to play again.” Cameron mentioned that he expects to see India and Pakistan find a way to have Pakistani players playing the IPL too because they are some of the best in the world.

Talking about the status quo that cricket has been accustomed to in the last few decades and the kinds of changes needed, Cameron said, “What cricket needs is for the governing body to be the governing body and set rules and create opportunities for private investments. IPL is the brainchild of the BCCI and really flourishing because of all the private attendees who came because of the resources. They attract the best cricketers around the world.”

Sharing what he would do if he took on the mantle of ICC president, the former WICB president said, “Cricket must grow quicker around the world and the big countries should develop cricket alongside the smaller countries and be able to have their players and coaches make the biggest leagues around the world. That’s how we’re going to grow. We need to get the United States and those with huge markets on board, with private investors.”

Talking about the notion that most of the money that comes into cricket is only from a few countries, Cameron said that West Indies hasn’t gotten a single dollar for the particular tournaments mentioned and elaborated on his plan to change that. “Well, I don’t think things can change overnight. It will continue to come from the big countries with the big economies. For example, Europe can contribute to our coffers. The United States is a massive contributor to tournaments. I’m not advocating anything, but I believe these other tournaments in Europe are never going to smaller countries. The West is producing the kind of income simply because of the size of their economy. We should be able to see cricket, and not be paying massive retainers or international players. But I don’t. So, it is something that the board needs to sit down for. It’s not something I can walk in and get done overnight. Discussions should grow to this point,” he said.

Responding to how he would tackle allegations about Test cricket being sacrificed at the altar of T20, he said, “That is not anybody’s doing. It’s Generation Z which doesn’t want to take five days to consume the game. Again, I believe that there are certain countries’ geographies and they should just continue to play Tests. England, Australia, India, Bangladesh can play. But a Test match in the West Indies is a dead robot. There is not enough revenue or advertising sponsorships behind it to make this,” said Cameroon.

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BE HONEST AND MOVE TOWARDS SOMETHING MEANINGFUL: MOHIT CHOBEY

Business leader and author Mohit Chobey joins NewsX for a special segment to talk about his journey and experience.

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Banking

Mohit Chobey is a business leader, TEDx speaker, a competitor in the Ironman competition, and the writer of “1000 KMs to Leadership”. Starting with the story about his writing, he shared, “I have been informally writing, in terms of blogs, but I think the formal process of getting into authorship happened pretty recently. I had a plethora of writings, in which I had put together many of the experiences in terms of how I saw myself evolve as an individual, a human being, and the process of becoming an endurance athlete.”

Elaborating more on that experience, he said, “One of the most impactful events which happened to me was when I undertook this journey to South Africa, and participated in something called the Comrades Marathon. It’s more than 100 years old and the largest and possibly the biggest ultramarathon in the world with 90 km of distance (covered) over 12 hours.” “During the process, the way I evolved, I think the articulation of those feelings was something very difficult. Over the years, I kind of put together my thoughts, and eventually, it forced me to come out with a book—it is actually a series of three, this is just the first in the trilogy—called “1000 KMs to Leadership.”

Mohit comes from an Army background and reflects their resilience. “I think genetics always plays a role. The environment in which you’re brought up makes a difference for me too, since my father donned the uniform for 38 years, and I’ve been to some very interesting escapades and adventures along with him. He was a national-level hockey player and I think to that extent, at least, the athleticism and the sports element was ingrained in me. Very early in my life, sports became an integral part of me. So, it will be apt to say that it was part of my upbringing, which helped me become an athlete,” he shared.

Chobey added, “Some other traits which also developed because of the fact that I resided in different cities and went to different schools. That allows a certain amount of versatility and adaptability. And I think that helped me become a much better and stronger business leader and be able to manage situations much better.”

Thus, while growing up, Mohit Chobey was able to soak in the metropolises of India as well as get an insight into what rural India or Bharat is all about. Talking about the same, he said, “My first few years in the corporate world were with FMCG companies and they further ensured that my understanding of India was not limited to the metropolis, but to the last mile, to the hinterland and the villages. And it is a matter of fact, that this entity, this nation of ours, is actually a conglomeration of different aspects. You have to dive deep into it, dwell into it, to really get a holistic understanding of the nation. And I think, early in my career, that’s something which happened to me. I’m very grateful for that.”

Not too many knew of the Ironman competition before Milind Soman completed it. Involving a 3.8-kilometre swim, typically in open water, followed by a 180-kilometre bike ride and culminating in a full marathon of 42.2 kilometres, the challenge covers an overall distance of 226 kms, in anywhere between 15 and a half to 17 hours, depending on the terrain. “For me, I think the trigger point came after I became a fairly serious endurance athlete in the running space. I was exposed to the idea of Ironman and, as I believe challenges help us evolve as individuals, this is something which I was really looking forward to. I knew it was not really my domain, because swimming in the open water takes you into a different level altogether. I’ve tried to capture some elements of it in my second book, but the challenge is something which I thrive on,” said Mohit.

Mohit Chobey is also a business leader and has been a TEDx speaker too. He also ended up writing an article on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “It’s called ‘Opportunity in Adversity’. Too many times we end up getting so overwhelmed by the change in fortunes and situations that we do not see the opportunity which it presents. To put it into perspective, I could come up with my book because of Covid. I’m not undermining the kind of global impact it has had. The fact of the matter is: It created a certain time availability,” he shared.

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WHAT’S UNDERMINING BUREAUCRACY AND MEDIA?

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If the political and the corporate system are not delivering, what about the permanent civil service? The biggest strength of the bureaucracy is that it comes through a transparent selection process and has amongst the best minds in the country. Bureaucrats have a secure working span of 30 to 35 years and can therefore think in the long term. All of them, when they appeared before the UPSC, professed a desire to serve the people. They claimed that their motivation to join the government was to take the benefits of development to the poorest. Some of them could have lied but certainly not all. The bureaucracy runs the government and has the executive powers to enforce the law. They are not just for programme implementation, regulation and compliance but are also mandated to protect the interests of the weakest—who are undeniably an equal owner of the country’s natural resources. They have to build and sustain public institutions, not mindlessly support outsourcing. They should be working on capacity building, improving the quality of products and services in the MSME sector, setting up technology incubation centres, skilling, re-skilling and strengthening the health, education, sanitation and training infrastructure to energise small industrial units. Instead we see that even the regulatory role of the bureaucracy is getting compromised.

What is undermining the bureaucracy? I am not getting into the subject of administrative and police reforms, etc. Here the question is why bureaucracy alone is targeted for corruption? True, we have seen how corruption undermines peoples’ trust in the bureaucracy and it has to be put down. The mechanisms to do so are available; we need the will to go forth. There are checks which work. All government decisions are subject to oversight by Parliament and statutory audit by an autonomous constitutionally mandated CAG; RTI queries, public disclosure and judicial review are other powerful deterrents. While petty corruption has continued as always, the last few decades have seen big corruption at higher levels. All these cases are linked to corporate entities, which have thrived under opaque decision making. They waste shareholder wealth on lavish lifestyles, questionable deals and hide behind an audit system which is on their own pay rolls. Their business decisions are vetted by an amorphous body of shareholders, financial institutions and promoters, who steam roll decisions in their personal interest. Notice how all cases of big corporate corruption were unearthed only when public servants and public financial institutions were probed. It was the oversight in the public sector which exposed the rot in the private sector, even leading to the recent fall of a government. The message is clear if we want to root out corruption, we must subject the private sector to the same kind of scrutiny as the public sector. All decisions, except on matters of national security, should, by law, be open to public scrutiny. Let us bite the bullet and see the dawn of a new India.

Talking of media, a lot has been written about their falling standards and there is no point dwelling further on the same. The crux of the matter is that information and questioning are the basis of democracy. The stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. Only intelligent people can ask questions, while the others can be led like sheep through fake news and propaganda. Educated people are a threat to totalitarian regimes. Bhagat Singh, before he went to the gallows in his mid-twenties, was reading the works of Leo Tolstoy, Bertrand Russell, Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Upton Sinclair, Friedrich Engels, Louis Tennyson and Rabindranath Tagore while in Jail. Apart from his daring exploits, it will not be wrong to believe that his intellect was considered a greater threat by the colonialists, even when he was so young? Therein lies the role of media.

Propaganda and fake news have traditionally been considered to be tools of non-conventional warfare. You use it in adversary nations to exploit their fault lines, to sow dissension and create confusion with the objective of undermining unfriendly regimes. You never ever use it within your own country. The final prey of propaganda, if used within a country, is always the regime itself which starts believing its own fake claims and loses touch with reality. It is like setting up terror groups to wage war against unlawful organisations inside the country. The groups eventually turn on the creator. Let us also remember that if the media becomes too compliant and keeps projecting the regime’s version for too long, it eventually loses credibility and then there is no vehicle left to carry the truth. The way to correct wrong perceptions of the past is through informed debate and not through fake claims. Intelligent people on either side have to establish their claims through facts and reason—that has been our tradition of shastrarth. Pushing false narratives to a gullible and poorly educated public is not in the long-term interest of the nation. We need thinking people, not compliant masses.

News is now dictated by interests of the promoters and handouts by interested parties are published without even the minimum effort to check their veracity. Having said all this, it remains a fact that some of the brightest and most well-read men and women are connected to this field. Some may have ideological reasons, but most can easily discern what is happening around them. We have seen some senior columnists make a course correction in their analytical writings. Truth purifies the soul and gives the opportunity to start again. The idea is not to start ranting where you were fawning but to bring public discourse back to the reality. While professional bodies can exercise checks on their members, the longer-term solution is to have a mandatory disclosure of ownership and funding of all media enterprises.

The writer is an Indian civil servant and a former Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The views expressed are personal. This is the fourth of a five-part series that will appear over a period of time.

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From his urge to serve the country better in terms of healthcare to providing high-quality affordable diagnostics: Suresh Vazirani shares his inspiring journey

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Suresh Vazirani

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Suresh Vazirani, Chairman & Managing Director, Transasia Biomedicals Ltd shares his vision and pioneering insights on diagnostics and healthcare in India.

Vazirani talks about his company which has been making high-quality diagnostics affordable and accessible to the masses not just in India but worldwide. “We are 100% made in India company and we started in 1979. I was part of the Jay Prakash Narayan movement and like thousands of other people and I began to see my country in a new light. But why are we so poor? We are suffering too much. We had everything that’s required to be a great country, but somehow was not happening. This was the part of my awakening and towards the late 70s, JP had to be on dialysis very often. Sadly during the time in India, there were only two places in the whole of India, where they had dialysis where most of the time the machines would not work.”

Vazirani got too absorbed looking at the sad state of healthcare in the country which led to a major turning point in his life. “We had very few facilities in the country and no manufacturers, everything was imported. I strongly believed the best person to start is oneself if I want something to happen in the country or in the world. I decided that I will start a service like that where I can serve the hospitals and the people of my country, and provide the necessary, affordable test.”

Talking about his brand and the real USP and driving force behind it, Vazirani says “Our brand stands for serving the people of our country in an honest business that provides good quality, affordable products. End of March when Prime Minister Modi announced the lockdown for the country, this is when I spoke to my team to see it as an opportunity to transition and serve a country that we’ve been wanting to. When lockdown came there was only one laboratory in India doing COVID tests. I thought for a country of 1.2 billion people they are going to just die without testing. So we got our research and development team to start developing the test. Fortunately, we have our R&D setups also in Europe and America. We’ve got our scientists there to start work along with our Indian scientists.”

Throwing light on his journey so far while building the brand on his own, Vazirani shared with us a very amazing experience, “ after seeing Jaya Prakash’s conditions and the lack of healthcare in India, and the equipment.I wanted to innovate and help a country. I founded Transasia Bio-Medicals Ltd. with a measly investment of Rs. 250 with a conviction that we will provide India’s needs for affordable, reliable, quality Diagnostics. I chose diagnostics because in a country like India should focus more on prevention, rather than cure. That is why I believe that we got into diagnostics to help people prevent diseases.”

Sharing his future plans the visionary said “Medical field and technology is changing very fast and fantastic new solutions are coming in every day. This is the most exciting field in terms of technology and we want to do our part. But realizing in India we do not have a strong medical research base. That’s why we went out to Europe and America and acquired about 15 companies in Europe and America who have the technology to give us products that countries like India need. Our idea is to be able to meet all the needs of India, in terms testings and not only today but continue to do it as the technology grows”

On a concluding note, Vazirani shares inspiring advice to the young entrepreneurs who should and need to serve the country and says there should be room for bigger goals because very often the goals are very small wanting to simply make fast money.

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I realised the necessity of quality school education in our valley: Showkat Hussain Khan, Chairman, Doon International School, Srinagar

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In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Showkat Hussain Khan, Chairman, Doon International School, Srinagar shares his experience about life and importance of quality schooling especially in the region of Jammu and Kashmir.

Talking us back to memory Lane and sharing the journey of his life, Khan said “ Fortunately, I was privileged enough to get the chance of receiving my primary education in the region of J&K and that too from a english medium school. It was extremely uncommon those days and this gradually made me realise the critical importance of quality schooling in the child’s life along with well attainment of knowledge and other skills.”

“It was the experience of the university days when I was pursuing higher studies in the Department of Physics that I found the absolute necessity of quality school education, and the specification of knowledgeable teachers in our region. I strongly felt that these two basic ingredients with the pressing priority and need of the moment in the valley if we had to uplift and educate the community as well to elevate the consciousness in youth.” further added Khan.

The school director credits his mother much who was instrumental in taping and motivating him. “ It was right after coming out of the university corridors that I invested my blood, sweat, and tears in order to empower my people by spreading higher education. In the year 2006. I took the initiative of establishing the College of Education in Srinagar. In the next couple of years it grew up to cater the needs of almost 5000 students and had several branches, thereby giving an admission to the students of the neighboring states like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, and of course J&K.”

The educationist further explained how in spite of starting the B.ed colleges successfully he felt that he had not fulfilled my utmost duty and tells us about a major turning point. “It was to work tirelessly for the most fundamental procurement of having a need based quality school, in order to galvanize and support the school going children. I made a decision to pursue my unfilled dream of having it fully, fully state of art educational school by the name of Doon International School, a franchisee name obtained from the main branch with the primary aim of felicitating and devising opportunities for the Kashmiri students.”

Khan opens up about the challenges and obstacles that he faced since inception and how running a school in a conflict torn region of J&K is like. “ Firstly, running a school in Srinagar itself is a challenge. Doon International School, Srinagar is widely known for its emphasis on providing our young children with a friendly, warm and homely environment. Classrooms are well-equipped with a pristine state of art infrastructure. The activity centre and play park designed by education experts provide areas for leisure and relaxation for the little ones outside their classrooms. The teaching is highly aided by technology through the use of tablets by children as well as teachers.”

Further Khan explains what sets Doon International apart from other schools in the valley. “Every child in our campus is an inevitable part of our ongoing mission and the progress of the primary and nursery students is tracked from a very tender age by grooming them in such a way that they are able to keep up with the challenges of the current cut throat competition. Teachers are well groomed and trained with all academic virtues, as well but soft skills, necessarily for childcare.”

Khan also mentioned the schooling system in the region, internet blockade and doing online classes on 2g speed. “As per the 2g network was concerned our teachers have left no stone unturned to work on our students even in the critical phases of pandemic. As a school it has set another benchmark by satisfying all the parents and the stakeholders in this prolonged phase of social crisis.

Moreover our students have brought laurels to the school worldwide in the International Taekwondo competition, Macau. The school has started in 2014 only but our students perform well in international competitions as well as in nationals. The school was sadly evicted with the impact of violence and strikes unusually for a couple of years. And this had its correlating effects on all our children.”

On a concluding note, the school director mentions how his school also encouraged sports infrastructure. “It makes my chest swell with pride to confirm that we have taken an important initiative by setting up MS Dhoni Cricket Coaching Academy in the school campus. This is the first venture meant for the cricket lovers,and will continue to provide a lifetime opportunity to the youths in the valley.”

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The pandemic damaged cricket quite a bit but thanks to the IPL we are again watching some excellent game: Dave Cameron, former president of the West Indies Cricket Board

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Dave Cameron

In an exclusive conversation with NewsX for its special segment NewsX A-list, Dave Cameron, former president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) shares with us many insights about his journey, crickets and of course what the sports during pandemic means.

Cameron talks about the assessment of the damage that cricket had to endure because of this pandemic as well as addressed how after six months the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) is a huge plus for cricket lovers. “It’s been tremendous and enormous but interestingly, cricket has weathered better than some other sports. Cricket has been damaged quite a bit but thank God for the IPL we are watching some excellent cricket. And I think it’s excellent because you have the best players in the world to play again” said the former WICB prez.

Cameron mentioned that though he expects to see India and Pakistan find a way to have Pakistani players playing the IPL because they are some of the best in the world.  “Cricket has been damaged but England was able to play the National series, New Zealand will too shortly but West Indies haven’t started any since the start of the pandemic so that is damaging their finances and I suspect the same for South Africa and some of the smaller countries.”

Talking about the status quo that cricket has been accustomed to in the last few decades and the kinds of changes, Cameron said, “ What cricket needs more than it is for the governing body to be the governing body and set rules and create opportunities for private investments. IPL is the brainchild of the BCCI and really flourishing because all the private attendees came and found that they can attract because of the resources. They attract the best cricketers around the world.”

Sharing his mantra and proposition Cameron would do if take on the mantle of ICC president, “Cricket must be going quicker around the world and the big countries develop cricket alongside the smaller countries and be able to have their players coaches and make the biggest leagues around the world pretty much. That’s how we’re going to grow. We need to get the United States on board and those who are huge markets and again and on board with private investors.”

Talking about the crucial notion that most of the money that comes into cricket is only from a few countries Cameron addressed that West Indies hasn’t gotten a single dollar for the particular tournaments mentioned and his plan to change that, he said “Well, I don’t think things can change overnight, it will continue to come from the big countries from the big economies. For example, Europe, you know, can contribute to our coffers. The United States is a massive contributor to those tournaments. I’m not advocating, but I believe these other tournaments in Europe are never going to smaller countries. The west is producing the kind of income simply because of the size of their economy. We should be able to see cricket, and not be paying massive retainers or international players. But I don’t. So it is something that the board needs to sit down. It’s not something I can walk in there and get done overnight. Discussions should grow to this point”

Responding to how he would tackle allegations about Test cricket being sacrificed at the altar of T2. “That is not anybody’s doing. It’s Generation Z who don’t want to take five days to consume the game but it is what the demand has been. And as a result, T20s has flourished. Now again, I believe there are certain countries’ geographies and they should just continue to play tests. England, Australia, India, Bangladesh can play and West Indies too can play. But a test match in the West Indies is a dead robot. There are not enough revenues, advertising sponsorships behind it to make this” said Cameroon.

On a concluding note, Cameron talks about West Indian cricket planning to foresee the revival as everybody wants to see the resurgence of the great 70s and 80s when it comes to the West Indies team. “ To be frank we continue to see great players now playing. This year, Andre Russell was a T20 Player of the Year. But for the West Indies is itself to be the world no 1 it’s going to require resources. I believe if we change the format as I’m suggesting and teams such as West Indies have a chance of winning the World Cup if we can put together the right mindset that says squat but conquering the world 25 years ago, I don’t just I don’t see it happening. However, if we don’t change the economics in world cricket, West Indies cricket will roll by the wayside. They have made some steps towards achieving some kind of unison in the region and I want the government to come forward and give the necessary resources otherwise they’re not going to survive.”

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